Staff physicians, or attending physicians, are doctors, who maintain their own offices and go to the hospital to treat patients. The doctor goes to the hospital in the morning, visits his patients, may perform surgery, and then leaves. A large hos
pital may have 200 to 300 physicians on its staff. So, it is impossible forthe hospital to have someone following each staff physician around to make sure they do not commit medical malpractice.
But, a hospital is not just a building where doctors treat their patients. It cannot ignore evidence that the doctors it allows to use its facilities are unqualified or committing malpractice. The hospital has a responsibility to ensure that a patient does not become the victim of medical malpractice by doctors it allows to work there. The hospital may be liable if it did any of the following:
1. Granted a doctor privileges to do things he was not qualified to do.
2. Failed to monitor his performance from time to time.
3. Failed to take action to protect his patients, if it became aware, or should have become aware, he was practicing dangerous medicine or committing medical malpractice.
4. Failed to set high standards of performance for its medical staff and permitted substandard practice.
5. Did not require the doctor to call in a consultant, if a patient’s medical problems were beyond his training or ability.
6. Did not require the doctor to transfer his patient to another hospital, if it did not have the equipment or specialists to treat the patient’s problem.
Do you see how these add up? The hospital is not responsible for individual acts of independent, staff physicians. It is not responsible for what your doctor did to you, unless it allowed him to do things he was not qualified to do, or failed to take action when it knew that he was practicing dangerous medicine or getting hit with numerous medical malpractice suits. But, as part of the hospital’s general responsibility to protect patients, and provide for their well-being, it has an obligation to see that only qualified and competent physicians are permitted to treat patients and to have adequate equipment with which to treat their patients.
In a California case, a judge awarded a large sum against a hospital, because it had permitted a surgeon to do 36 unnecessary surgeries, falsify medical records, avoid consultations, and obtain consents to surgery by deceit and intimidation over a period of 9 years. During that time, the doctor was also sued for medical malpractice 26 times, but the hospital never investigated him or took any action to protect his patients.